Monday, July 29, 2013

Melanie Page Reviews: The Kind of Friends Who Murder Each Other

by Chris Rhatigan
100 Pages

KUBOApressReleased April 30th, 2013

By guest reviewer Melanie Page

I’ve never read Rhatigan before, but I can appreciate a man who gives it all away in the title. The Kind of Friends Who Murder Each Other starts with three friends in a bowling alley who end up confessing the worst thing they’ve ever done. Two admit murder, one confesses to breaking into homes to watch people sleep. But does anyone overhear this conversation? That’s where things get crazy in this novella. The Kind of Friends Who Murder Each Other starts out like a common “I’ve seen some things, man, and you wouldn’t like ‘em!” kind of story and has the typical male in his twenties who smokes and drinks too much. He works a job he hates, and I wasn’t sure if he had any ambition. I’ve heard this story before, and it’s kind of boring.

But Rhatigan does something unusual with his narrator. Simon fits the description above, but what pulls him together and rounds him out is his inability to worry. He just doesn’t seem to panic because he’s on a track (mind you, this doesn’t mean a five-year plan) and he won’t be able to get off regardless of what he does. So, Simon just “is.”

The comedic imagery helped me relate to and laugh at this character, and Rhatigan pulls from stereotypical characters around the narrator to make the narrator more lifelike. At work, Simon is stopped by an officer who is borderline stalking him:

“Maxson crossed his arms in that way cops do, they were certain about themselves,
about their surroundings, about the way the world worked, so certain about everything, they could see out ten steps ahead. If I had a gun I would have shot him, but I didn’t have a gun so I stood there, not knowing if I should put my hands in my pockets or at my sides or on the counter so I kept alternating between all three, a couple of seconds at one, a few at the next.”

Struggling to know what to do with one’s arms will be a human problem until we all get robots to do the heavy lifting, but thinking about Simon switching arms every few seconds, probably trying to look casual while he’s doing it, makes him a little ruffled, a little more real.

He’s even concerned about what others may think of him, though it’s not often. His concerns come from symbols, not what he actually thinks or says: “I ordered a bottle of domestic beer, sat in a booth, peeled off the label. I’d heard somewhere that that was a sign of sexual frustration so I tried to reaffix the label but it kept curling back.” The dry humor Rhatigan inserts matches with Simon’s can’t-change-things attitude, but the imagery, again, makes him a little flawed (and a bit funny in his own body).

In the beginning of the story, I was really bothered by the comma splices. They’re in the whole novella and appear to be a stylistic choice. My personal opinion is that there are more effective ways to make a story read faster, but I got used to them. Sometimes, the sentences ended up being difficult to read as a result, though. Here’s one that starts as a subordinating conjunction but doesn’t end with an independent clause, which made me feel lost: “Soon as I reached my building, ran to the elevator, four people inside, recognized none of them, every sound they made--sniffle, twitch, clear of the throat, shook me, swarmed my mind, a catchy jingle I couldn’t be rid of.” I shouldn’t have to read a sentence several times to get the idea, but maybe Rhatigan wanted the reader to feel lost with Simon. I recommend this book for its dark humor and short length!

Bio: Melanie Page is a MFA graduate, adjunct instructor, and recent founder of Grab the Lapels, a site that only reviews books written by women (


  1. Like you, I can forgive the splicing and jumping as the premise of the novella is fresh as it touches on the darker side present in everyone we know. What secrets do our friends, neighbors and co-workers have? I'm much more intrigued than put off.